The 10 best '80s martial arts movies cover a wide range of stories from simple action to stories of redemption. These movies had long been a staple for Eastern audiences and when they hit in the West, they hit hard. Out of the many great movies from this genre that came from the '80s, here are ten of the best. 

"American Ninja"

Michael Dudikoff plays Joe Armstrong, a shiftless drifter that finds himself enlisted in the US Army after being given the choice of enlistment or prison. While driving a supply convoy, his entire platoon is attacked and wiped out, with the killers trying to take a colonel's daughter hostage. Armstrong gets the daughter back but is shunned by his superiors as the only man alive from his outfit, while the killers seek revenge.

"Best of the Best"

Centered around a group of American martial artists as they fight their way to the top of a Korean Tae Kwon Do tournament, this movie is full of tons of action. It hits on all the necessary aspects of a good martial arts film: good fights, national honor and redemption. Eric Roberts plays the reluctant hero of the movie being pushed to succeed by what could be seen as his "former master" in James Earl Jones.


Based around Frank Dux (Jean Claude Van Damme) and his claims of fighting in the actual Kumite tourney that the movie is based on, this movie is one of the more "Eastern" themed of the purely western martial arts films. Dux travels to Hong Kong to fight for the honor of his masters style, meeting a barrage of enemies and allies along the way.

"The Karate Kid"

Daniel (Ralph Macchio) has moved across the country with his mother to a California beach community. While pursuing the affections of a girl, he draws the anger of her ex-boyfriend, who proceeds to bully him constantly. Daniel swears to learn to fight back and enlists the help of the maintenance man in his apartment building: Mr. Miyagi (Pat Morita).

"Big Trouble in Little China"

The story follows Jack Burton (Kurt Russell), a loner and a trucker who finds himself mixed up in a mystical battle in Chinatown. When his best friends fiance is kidnapped, Burton takes it upon himself to track her down and get her back. What he finds is a group of martial arts masters who also are masters of black magic and can summon monsters to their aid.

"No Retreat, No Surrender"

Jason Stillwell (Kurt McKinney) is a martial arts student that trains under the imagined ghost of Bruce Lee. He finds himself in a strange situation where he needs to use his skills to save Seattle from a ruthless crime syndicate. The syndicate's top fighter: a Russian named Ivan, who is played by Jean Claude Van Damme.

"Silent Rage"

Chuck Norris plays Dan Stevens, a small-town Texas sheriff who finds himself fighting against a superhuman fighter to save his town. It's pure Chuck Norris.

"The Last Dragon"

Leroy Green plays Taimak, a martial artist struggling to become a master. During is quest, he has to fight another martial arts master to make his way, while also defending a beautiful singer from a crazy music promoter.

"Code of Silence"

Chuck Norris plays Eddie Cusack, a cop in Chicago caught in a horrible gang war. Mixing roundhouse kicks and bullets, he makes his way through the underworld trying to bring order back to the city.

"Karate Kid II"

Daniel is back, this time in Japan to accompany Mr. Miyagi to his home village. There is an old debt that a childhood enemy of Miyagi wants to settle, and Daniel gets caught up in the middle of it.